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Jose Padilla

Jose PadillaAKA José Padilla

Born: 18-Oct-1970
Birthplace: Brooklyn, NY

Gender: Male
Religion: Muslim
Race or Ethnicity: Hispanic
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Terrorist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Convicted of conspiracy

Jose Padilla was arrested in Chicago on May 8, 2002, and a month later Attorney General John Ashcroft held a nationally-televised press conference announcing his arrest. "We have captured a known terrorist who was exploring a plan to build and explode a radiological dispersion device, or 'dirty bomb,' in the United States," Ashcroft said. He described Padilla as "an enemy combatant who poses a serious and continued threat to the American people and our national security." The Justice Department said he had "trained with the enemy", met with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and other top men in Osama bin Laden's terrorist group, been schooled by al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, that he had become an expert in wiring explosives and devising 'dirty bombs' to spread radiation across densely-populated areas, and that this was the reason he returned to America. Undersecretary of State John Bolton said Padilla had been carrying plans for this attack when he was arrested.

These are terrifying allegations, and Americans were indeed terrified. Almost everyone agreed that Padilla ought to face trial and, if found guilty, be imprisoned. The only people who disagreed were at the highest level of the US government, where the trial was deemed unnecessary. Instead, Padilla was simply imprisoned. He was allowed to speak only to government interrogators, and had almost no contact with the outside world for three and a half years.

Through America's entire history, accused assassins and spies, mass murderers and serial killers, child rapists and kiddie pornographers have always had their Constitutional rights, but Padilla would not. For this man, there would be no charges, no indictment, no habeas corpus, no trial by judge or jury, and no due process of law. Padilla became the first US citizen to be stripped of his rights by Presidential order. George W. Bush maintains that as President, he can declare Padilla -- or any citizen -- an "enemy combatant", and deny him the protections of the US Constitution and Geneva Conventions.

So who is Jose Padilla, this man so dangerous that America's ordinary system of justice cannot handle him? He is the son of Puerto Rican immigrants, baptized a Catholic, who spent his earliest years in New York until his family moved to Chicago. As a teenager, he ran with the Maniac Latin Disciples street gang, and was arrested numerous times. He was convicted of punching a policeman who tried to arrest him for stealing a doughnut. He had several aliases, including Jose Rivera, Jose Alicea, Jose Hernandez, and Jose Ortiz.

At 14, he was involved in a murder when he and a friend attacked and robbed three members of a rival gang. One of the victims, Elio Evangelista, chased them, and Padilla's accomplice stabbed him. As he lay on the ground bleeding, Padilla kicked him repeatedly. Evangelista died of his injuries, and Padilla's companion was convicted of murder. Padilla was convicted of aggravated battery, armed robbery and attempted armed robbery, and spent about three years incarcerated at juvenile hall.

As an adult, Padilla lived for several years in Florida, supporting himself with a series of low-wage jobs, first at a hotel, later at a Taco Bell. In 1991 he was involved in a road rage incident, firing a .38-caliber revolver at another driver and, when confronted by police, trying to pull the gun on them. For this, he spent ten months in jail, where he got into at least one fist fight with guards.

Then he converted to Islam, and wanted to be called Ibrahim, with no last name, like Cher or Yanni. He married, started studying the Koran, settled into a seemingly quiet life, and went ten years without being arrested. But he started hanging out with a Palestinian activist who was involved with an Arab charity the US government considered a front for terrorists, a connection that led federal agents to start paying attention to Padilla. He quit his job, left his wife and traveled to the Middle East, where he taught English by day, and worked nights as a martial arts instructor. He renamed himself again, becoming Abdullah al-Muhajir, and married a second wife in Egypt. When his first wife, back in America, found out months later that he had remarried, she divorced him.

Padilla, meanwhile, traveled to Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. He hung out with very radical Muslims -- al Qaeda-types, who allegedly taught Padilla to be a master bomb-builder. At one point, Padilla is said to have presented his new cohorts with schematics for constructing a nuclear bomb, but when Time magazine later published excerpts from these plans it was plain they had been purloined from a satirical website.

So Jose Padilla is a thug, a gang-banger, a polygamist, and perhaps a terrorist but not a very bright one. When he returned to America, he was arrested as he stepped off the plane, and became famous as the alleged 'dirty bomber'. And certainly, if there is any truth to the allegations he ought to face trial and, if found guilty, be imprisoned. Skipping the trial, though, worries some Americans, who are concerned about the dangers of allowing a President to decide which Americans are covered by the Constitution and which Americans are not. After all, future Presidents might not be as thoughtful and trustworthy as Bush. Lawyers representing Padilla have sued, claiming that the President has no such power, and that any American, even an alleged terrorist, has Constitutional rights.

Padilla's lawyers claim he was tortured, held in isolation throughout his imprisonment, that he was hooded during interrogations, threatened with execution, and given a "truth serum" or an LSD-like chemical. These interrogations were recorded, but the recordings have unfortunately been lost by the Defense Intelligence Agency. Some of the evidence against Padilla, including information on where he had traveled and what he had done, was allegedly obtained by torturing other prisoners.

In early 2003 a federal judge ruled that under Presidential war powers, Bush can order any citizen imprisoned as an enemy combatant, but that Padilla must at least be allowed to see a lawyer. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld refused and instead appealed the case to a higher court. Letting Padilla talk to a lawyer, Rumsfeld argued, might make him less willing to talk in his ongoing interrogations.

In December 2003, a panel of three federal judges ordered that Padilla must be formally charged with a crime, or else be released. But instead of charging him with a crime, the Defense Department appealed the ruling to the US Supreme Court, which rejected the case on technical grounds -- Padilla's lawyers had sued Rumsfeld in New York, instead of suing the Navy brig commander in South Carolina, where Padilla was being held. The prisoner was eventually allowed to see a lawyer, and among his first questions he asked how the Chicago Bears football team was doing. The government listened to Padilla's conversations with his lawyer -- another extraordinary change from longstanding rules of justice, which hold that lawyer-client conversations are confidential.

Forensic psychiatrist Angela Hegarty, who spent twenty-two hours interviewing Padilla and concluded that he was mentally unfit to stand trial, said that his mind had been basically destroyed by his years of interrogation. During his legal proceedings, Padilla grew angry at his own attorneys, claiming that their assertions of abuse had been "unfair to the Commander-in-Chief."

In September 2005, the US Court of Appeals reiterated that the President can order citizens held without trial -- but two months later, apparently to avoid an appeal to the Supreme Court, the government finally pressed charges against Padilla. He was convicted of conspiracy, and giving material support to terrorists. Serious allegations to be sure -- each charge carries a maximum penalty of fifteen years in prison -- but these are nowhere near the horrific crimes Ashcroft told Americans Padilla was guilty of. The court case heard no claims of 'dirty bombs', or of attacks being plotted in or against America.

Father: Jose Osvaldo Padilla (d.)
Mother: Estela Ortega Lebron (sales consultant)
Father: José Lebron (stepfather)
Brother: Chumbi (b. 1973)
Brother: Ilan Ojeda (half brother, b. circa 1978)
Sister: (2 sisters)
Son: Joshua (b. circa 1989)
Wife: Cherie Maria Stultz (m. 2-Jan-1996, sep. Feb-1999, div. 2001)
Wife: Shamia'a (Egyptian, m. Jul-1999, two children)
Son: Hussein (b. Sep- 2000)
Son: Hassan (b. 2002)

    University: Al-Azhar University, Cairo, Egypt
    University: Darul Uloom Islamic Institute, Pembroke Pines, FL

    Taco Bell Davie, FL (1992-93)
    Hilton Hotels Sunrise, FL (1990)
    Latin Kings
    Converted to Islam
    Born-Again Christian
    Trespassing Chicago, IL
    Drug Possession: Marijuana Chicago, IL
    Armed Robbery Chicago, IL, convicted
    Battery Chicago, IL, convicted
    Murder 15-Aug-1985 (Chicago, IL, charges reduced)
    Road Rage Oct-1991 (Sunrise, FL)
    Assault Oct-1991 (Sunrise, FL)
    Assault Broward County jail
    Terrorism indicted (Nov-2005)
    Competency Hearing (Feb-2007)
    Conspiracy indicted (Nov-2005), convicted (16-Aug-2007)
    Tortured at Guantanamo, according to his attorneys
    Assisted by the ACLU (2011)
    Puerto Rican Ancestry
    Risk Factors: Marijuana, Cocaine, Alcoholism, Gonorrhea, Hepatitis

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